10 Best Headphone Amp/DAC Combo Under $200 In 2020


Over the years, there have been massive changes in the means through which we get and play our music. Of course, the advent of headphones and other wireless devices has also played a significant role in these changes. To get quality sound nowadays, there is a need to consider some of the major components of the device that we are using. Some of the components that contribute to sound quality are headphone amps and DACs. So, what are these components and how do they benefit the user

Headphone amp and DAC

An amp is simply a form of amplifier that has been specifically designed to increase the low-voltage sound signal that it is receiving from a particular device, such as smartphones, PC and so on. This amplifier will transduce or convert the signal received into sound waves by the speakers inside the headphones.

DAC, on the other hand, usually comes with modern amps. Notably, the term DAC refers to a digital-to-analog converter. Hence, the job of this component is the conversion of digital audio data into a low-voltage sound signal that can be boosted by the amplifier. A DAC plays a pivotal role in ensuring that users can hear sound through their headphones when they are connected to tablets, smartphones, PCs, iPods and so on.

Notably, smartphones, turntables, and PCs usually come with a built-in headphone amp and DAC. So, you may wonder why you need to have an extra amp and DAC combo. Well, the basic reason for the additional amp and DAC combo is to get a significant boost in the audio quality. With the best headphone amp/DAC combo you get a better sound that will improve your experience as you listen to music, play games, watch movies or perform other activities.

Another benefit that the users can gain from using amp/DAC combo is that they are often made with exceptional customization options. Hence, they are the perfect devices for control freaks that want to fine-tune sounds to their particular preferences. Frequency levels and sound knobs are just a few of the things you can adjust to personalize the audio experience of whatever you are listening to.

Similarly, you may want to consider getting headphone amp/DAC if you are looking for a way to utilize different systems. This is because this modern device often comes with an excellent USB connection; hence, you can connect them with various devices that you want. Also, the headphone amp-and-DAC combo is quite portable; hence, it is usually easy for anyone to carry it from one place to another.

10 Best Headphone Amp/DAC Combo

If you are looking for an amp/DAC combo in 2020, here are the best ones that do not cost as much as $200.

#1 FiiO Alpen 2 E17k

FiiO Alpen 2 E17k

Specs

Frequency response20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Crosstalk>75 dB (1 kHz)
Output power200 mW (32 Ω/THD<1%)
Signal to noise ratio>113 dB
ConnectionMicro USB port; USB port; coaxial digital input port; Dual function line in/line out ports
Total harmonic distortionAmp < 0.001% @ 10 mW, DAC < 0.007% @ 10 mW
Max output current> 115 mA
Max output voltage>7.8 Vp-p
Battery capacity and life1500 mAh; Up to 15 hours, approximately 3.5 hours recharge time
Headphone output3.5 mm stereo jack
Output impedance< 1.1 Ω
WeightLess than 0.5 pounds
Dimensions4.1 x 2.4 x 0.47 in

Details of the product

This headphone amp/DAC combo is a special device that serves as the best in the edition of the well-known FiiO E17 DAC and headphone amplifier. The FiiO Alpen 2 E17k ensures that you get the better detail in any sound you are listening through the presence of lower distortion, awesome conversion features, and top-notch S/N ratio. When you are using this product, you are guaranteed high-quality industrial design and exceptional performance at a relatively affordable cost. When compared to all the amp/DAC combos in the same series that came before it, this device wins easily.

As shown in the specs above, this product comes with several excellent features that will make you enjoy every bit of sound that you are listening to. Similarly, it has a headphone output with a 3.5mm stereo jack.  It also has a micro USB port, dual-function line in/out ports, coaxial digital input port, and screen protectors. When using it, you can adjust the bass and control the volume through a digital means. On top of these amazing features, The FiiO Alpen 2 E17k has a 1,500 mAh battery that can last you for as much as 15 hours. The full charging of this device only takes about 3.5 hours. Additional items you will get with this product include a USB capable, coaxial input adapter cable, and cloth carrying pouch that protects the device.

Pros

  • It has numerous excellent features that will make sure that you enjoy using it
  • It produces high-quality sound
  • It has a great design that makes it one of the most beautiful amp/DAC combos
  • It boasts of having a long-lasting battery life; hence, there is no need to charge it every time
  • It offers several additional tools that are lacking in many other devices of its kind

Cons

  • The bass is average
  • Instruments don’t sound as great as you will get in some other device

#2 Audioengine D3 DAC/amp

Audioengine D3 DAC/amp

Specs

DACAK4396 DAC
Frequency response10 Hz–25 kHz +/- 0.5 dB
Crosstalk-110 dB
THD+N<0.002%
Signal to noise ratio110 dB
ConnectionUSB input
Full-scale output2.0 Vrms 
Power requirementUSB 5 V DC, 200 mA
MaterialMetal injection-molded aluminum case
Headphone impedance12 ohms – 10 k-ohms
Output impedance2 ohms
WeightLess than 0.5 pounds
Dimensions2.56 x 0.79 x 0.39 in

Details of the product

Audioengine D3 DAC/amp is another powerful, reliable headphone amp/DAC combo that is made of premium materials. Powered by a USB, this device is quite portable, so it can fit rightly into your pocket without bugging unnecessarily. When connected to your PC, this product has the ability to bypass the sound card of your PC so that a high-quality processing system is utilized for producing sound. The built-in AK4396 DAC chip allows this headphone amp/DAC combo to be able to work with 192-kHz/24-bit. The device also has a computer OS volume control that makes sure that you can customize the volume to suit your preferences. Furthermore, it works with the TI 1020B USB controller.

The package of this product normally comes with a carrying case that eases the process of taking this device with you anywhere you go. Also, you will get a setup guide that is aimed at making it easy for you to start using it. Finally, a 1/4 inch (6.3mm) adapter cable is also included to make the connection to your devices seamless and fast.

Pros

  • It produces sound with great depth, clarity, and detail
  • It is durable
  • It is very portable; hence, easy to carry everywhere

Cons

  • It may be heating after using it for a long period
  • Although it is compatible with OS X and Windows, it performs poorly when connected to Android devices

#3 Creative Sound Blaster E5

Creative Sound Blaster E5

Spec

Audio TechnologySB-Axx1™
Audio FidelityUp to 24-bit / 192kHz
Connectivity OptionsmicroUSB; 1 x Type-A USB Port
Signal to noise ratio120dB (DAC)
ConnectivityUSB 2.0, Bluetooth, USB 3.0
Max Channel OutputStereo
Microphone TypeBuilt-in Mic that has an auto-orientation sensor. This works in both Landscape  and Portrait modes
Headphone Out2 x 3.5mm jacks
Line / Optical Out3.5mm jack
Supported Operating SystemsWindows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Mac OS X v10.6.8 and above, Windows 8.1, Windows 10
WeightLess than 0.5 pounds
Dimensions4.3″ x 2.9″ x 0.9″

Details of the product

Known as a multipurpose sound device, Creative Sound Blaster E5 nicely combines repertoire with seamless digital decoding to deliver outstanding sound quality. Despite being a low-priced device, it comes with a beautiful strong alloy component that spots a wonderful matte finish. The base of the product is made of rubber, which ensures that the product stays firmly on the desk or other surfaces that you place it.

This device provides 24 bit/192kHz output that is entirely free of jitter. However, for any connection done through USB, the sound output will only be 24/96 kHz. Along with other astonishing features of this product, you will get a micro-USB cable for connecting with other devices. Also, its package has desk stand, mini TOSLINK cable as well as two elastic bands.

Pros

  • Its 24bit/192kHz output is seamless and nice
  • It boasts of having an integrated headphone amplifier
  • It allows Bluetooth wireless streaming
  • It is quite affordable

Cons

  • Despite its sturdy signal-to-noise ratio, you may still notice some forms of sound coloration
  • The build of this product is relatively poor, especially when compared to the other products on this list
  • It features two 3.5mm out-ports that are not capable of providing enough flexibility when it comes to headphone options.
  • The integrated microphone is average at best.

#4 Denon DA-10 Portable USB DAC

Denon DA-10 Portable USB DAC
Frequency Response2 to 50,000 Hz (-3 dB)
Signal to Noise Ratio108 dB (volume max, 2V)
Gain ControlNormal/High
DAC32 bit at 192 kHz
Connectivity1x iPod/iPhone cable port; 1x USB Micro B for charging/ connecting to a computer; 1x stereo balanced 1/8″ aux input
USB InputMicro USB-B
Weight0.53 lb
Dimensions2.52 x 1.14 x 5.47″
Headphone OutputYes
ProcessingAdvanced AL 32 processing
Analog I/OYes
Total Harmonic Distortion0.0003% (1 kHz audible range)

Details of the product

Denon DA-10 Portable USB DAC is a budget-friendly amp/DAC combo that offers solid performance that can be compared to top-quality, pricey audiophile devices. It is a compact device that features a rechargeable that you can use for listening to music for as long as 7 hours. Although this device does not seem to be suitable for the pocket, it is portable enough to be kept inside a small back that you take along with you anywhere you go.

The connection of this product to your computer can be done through Micro USB-B. Notably, you can utilize the Lightning to USB adapter at its back for connection to your iOS device. If you want to bypass the DAC, you can easily make use of the 3.55mm input of Denon DA-10 Portable USB DAC.

Through the assistance of the low signal to noise ratio of this product, you can enjoy the full dynamics of any music without experiencing any unwanted distortion.

Pros

  • It has 2 Hz – 50kHz frequency range, which contributes to the quality of sound you will get
  • It features a rechargeable battery that can last for up to 7 hours. So, you don’t need to charge this device constantly
  • It delivers 32bit/192kHz output, which is smooth

Cons

  • It is slightly bulky when compared to most other headphone amps/DAC combos on this list.
  • To connect to Windows computers, you have to download some specific drivers
  • It does not have the ability to switch from one source to another automatically

#5 Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100

Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100

Specs

DACWolfson WM8742 24-bit DAC
Frequency response20Hz to 20kHz (±0.1dB)
Output impedance<50ohms
Signal to noise ratio-113dBr
Crosstalk @1KHZ< -130dB
Digital input word widths supported16-24bit
Maximum power consumption5W
Weight1.1 lbs.
Dimensions106 x 46 x 130mm (4.1 x 1.8 x 5.1″)
ColorBlack and silver

Details of the product

Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 is powered by Wolfson WM8742 24-bit DAC, which makes it possible for your speaker setup to produce premium digital content. It features a wide range of in/out ports, TOSLINK optical port, digital coax ports, and USB. These connection options allow this device to be compatible with a lot of devices.

With a frequency range of 20 to 20kHz, you are guaranteed sound frequencies that are more than you can ever need. While this product is a basic amp/DAC combo device, it provides enough that you need to enjoy a wide range of activities.

Pros

  • It provides a natural frequency response that is not beyond what human ears can process
  • It comprises several speaker inputs
  • It provides incoming sample rate display for better visibility

Cons

  • Its audio bitrate is quite low when compared to most other amp/DAC combo devices on this list.
  • Whenever you switch the device on again, the input selector will reset itself. This means that you have to set the selector over and over again.

#6 Audioengine D1

Audioengine D1

Specs

DAC Type Dual-mode USB and Optical (SPDIF)
D/A ConverterAKM4396
Signal to Noise Ratio>110dB
Frequency Response10 Hz to 25 kHz +/- 0.5 dB
Crosstalk<-85dB
InputsUSB;
Optical (SPDIF)
OutputsRCA stereo;
3.5 mm headphone
Power Requirements200 mA
Power SourceUSB 5V
Output Impedance47 ohms RCA; 10 ohms headphone
WeightLess 1 lb 
Dimensions3.5 x 4 x 1″

Details of the products

If you are looking for a low-priced amp/DAC combo that provides you with fantastic value, don’t look beyond Audioengine D1. Like many other audio devices from Audioengine, D1 also delivers top-quality sound. It is a feature-packed device that functions in the form of USB DAC. You only have to plug it directly into your device and still enjoying its benefits.

Let’s talk about its body. This product is made with a powerful, beautiful metal casing. The front and rare of this device is made with rubber. With the help of its simple yet functional interface, you don’t need any technical know-how or experience to start utilizing this product. The body of this product is filled with a headphone jack, a volume knob, USB, one RCA output, optical S/PDIF input as well as power button.

The high signal-to-noise ratio of 110dB of this headphone amp/DAC combo produces distinctive and audible sound and reduces any forms of digital distortion that are associated with some other devices. Other amazing features that you look forward to the device include an array of connection options and low 10-ohm output impedance. Although there are other products from Audioengine that are better than D1, most of them come at higher prices.

Pros

  • It offers a small footprint
  • It is relatively cheap
  • It comes with an integrated headphone amplifier that boosts the quality of sound

Cons

  • Its tonal balance is average; hence, it needs some improvement
  • It lacks 1/4 inch headphone output
  • It features high impedance, which tends to restrict headphone selections

#7 Micca OriGen G2 amp and DAC

Micca OriGen G2 amp and DAC

Specs

Amplifier JRC NJM4556 operational amplifier
D/A ConverterWolfson WM8740 Stereo D/A Converter
Signal to Noise Ratio>108dB
PCM audio24-bit/192kHz
CompatibilityWindows XP/7/8/8.1/10, Android, and MAC OSX
Output Impedance0.5 Ohm
WeightLess 1 lb 
Dimensions4.6 x 2 x 1.9 inches

Details of the product

Micca OriGen G2 amp and DAC is a well-constructed amp/DAC combo that has studio master-grade digital audio playback. This device is capable of supporting high-resolution PCM audio of as much as 24-bit/192kHz. It features a stereo analog line-level as well as optical S/PID digital output. Besides, this product comprises a sturdy integrated headphone amp that can power 16 to 600 Ω. 

It is also worthwhile to note that this product supports WASAPI and ASIO Push/Event output modes through the assistance of its sophisticated audio stream interface. Another special thing about this headphone amp/DAC combo is that it guarantees unparalleled versatility since you can use it with a wide range of headphones. 

Pros

  • The volume control looks and feels great. It also ensures that the device is quite easy to control
  • It is compatible with many devices
  • It is low-priced
  • Its connectivity is flexible since it allows optical or USB output

Cons

  • The USB drivers that work for Windows 10 are quite poor

#8 Massdrop O2 + SDAC DAC/AMP

Massdrop O2 + SDAC DAC/AMP

Specs

D/A ConverterAKM AK4452
Frequency Response20Hz–20 kHz; +/-0.02 dB
Crosstalk-102 dB
InputsUSB micro
OutputsRCA stereo
Maximum output2.15VRMS
Output Impedance0.54 ohms
Weight0.58 pounds
Dimensions4.12 x 3.87 x 1.12 in

Details of the product

Massdrop O2+SDAC DAC/AMP combines two exceptional tools in a single product. This product is made of the popular Massdrop Objective 02 and the Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC. As a result of this special combination, this product is an affordable yet sturdy package that produces solid sound quality.

Since this product has been designed to take care of the needs of audiophiles, it offers high performance that will beat the measurements of the well-known ODAC. Apart from its awesome performance, the build of this device is another factor that has continued to make many audiophiles to fall in love with it. If you take a look at the back of this amp/DAC combo, you will note a set of RCA jacks that has signs depicting the output and input.

The package of this device contains a 3.3ft Micro-USB to USB cable, which improves connectivity. In summary, this product is one of the best you can get if you are looking for a premium product that has both amp and DAC but does not cost you an arm and a leg.

Pros

  • It is an affordable product with exceptional features
  • It has proven to be one of the best for boosting sound quality
  • It comes with the standard 1-year warranty that the manufacturer usually offers for its products

Cons

  • The amplifier sometimes gets clipped in the signal stage. This is because of the positioning of the volume pot around the circuit between the output stage and the signal stage.

#9 NUForce uDAC-3 DAC/AMP Combo

NUForce uDAC-3 DAC/AMP Combo

Specs

Signal-to-noise ratio98 dB
Dynamic range90 dB
Power sourceUSB powered, 80 mA / 5 V
Headphone output80 mW x 2 at 16 Ohm
Digital outputCoaxial RCA 75 ohm
Native bit rate32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz, 24-bit
InputUSB 1.1, 2.0 compatible
Dimensions2.7 x 1.5 x 0.8 in

Details of the products

The main purpose of this amp/DAC combo is to assist you to improve the sound output of your computer. This device is strong enough to be used in a noisy environment. Due to its good features, it has been used constantly by gamers, audiophiles, musicians, DJs and other people that want to get great good sound quality while performing various activities.

Despite the amazing benefits of this product, it is not bulky. In fact, you can fit this NUForce uDAC-3 DAC/AMP Combo in your pocket with ease. Notably, the circuitry of this device is analog. Also, its signal path does not have any capacitor; therefore, it can maintain some levels of clarity while the sound signal is being converted. Similarly, the product relies on the asynchronous USB connection to lower disturbing interference and all sorts of jitter. Along with the nice features of this product, you will also get a 39.1 inch USB cable. Learn more about this product here.

Pros

  • It is a light-weight product that is portable and easy to use
  • It is easy to set up
  • It is an affordable product that improves computer audio

Cons

  • The headphones are low quality
  • The audio quality is average

#10 CEntrance DACport Slim – Massdrop Exclusive

CEntrance DACport Slim

Specs

DACAKM AK4490
Max output power450 mW
Resolution support16 and 24 bit
Frequency response20 Hz–40 kHz
Dynamic range109 dB
CompatibilityMac, Linux, and PC
Output impedance1 ohm
WeightLess than 1 pounds
Dimensions3 x 1.1 x 0.4 in
ConnectionAsynchronous USB connection

Details of the product

CEntrance DACport Slim is another elegant, high-performing amp/DAC combo that has been delivering top-notch sound quality over the past few years. It is equipped with an aesthetic aluminum casing that can last you for a long period. This product has the AKM AK4490 chip, which goes a long way in helping it to boost the quality of sound that you are listening to. Just like many other products of its kind, this device can play any audio file from 16-bit/44.1 kHz to 24-bit/192 kHz. This shows that CEntrance DACport Slim is a versatile amp/DAC combo that everyone can rely on.

What’s more, CEntrance DACport Slim can add more value to any music files that you are playing. All thanks to the total harmonic distortion of 0.003% and a dynamic range of 109 dB. Moreover, it has a 3.5mm jack that is capable of dealing with the functioning of the headphones and line-out roles. See the review of this product.

Pros

  • It delivers quality sound
  • It is small
  • It features excellent physical volume control

Cons

  • It lacks DSD support

Conclusion

In a nutshell, if you need a good amp/DAC combo that has great features but does not cost you a fortune. The 10 best products that fall into this category have been mentioned above. However, you must understand that these products have some drawbacks, but this is not unexpected when you consider their prices.

Out of the lots mentioned above, FiiO Alpen 2 E17k seems to be the perfect amp/DAC combo. Not only does this product deliver great performance but it also comes at a cheap price that you can hardly find in other products. It also comes with great features and excellent design that will make it possible for you to use it anywhere you find yourself.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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